Now we have AirTran actually improving frequent-flier benefits for its best customers -- at a time when the tin-eared major carriers seem to be making great efforts to alienate their most loyal customers by reducing elite-status benefits.
Here's the AirTran announcement today:
AirTran Airways Upgrades A+ Rewards Program for Travelers' Benefit
...Low Cost Carrier Offers More Benefits to its Best Customers -
Effective immediately, changes to the A+ Rewards program include:
-- Elite members will be allowed to upgrade to Business Class at the gate starting 40 minutes prior to departure, regardless of fare class purchased and based on availability. Up to one extra passenger may be upgraded if the flight is booked on the same reservation.
-- Elites and A2B corporate customers will be given priority standby status.
-- Elites will have access to an exclusive phone number for calls and questions regarding their program, reservations or redemptions. This phone number can be found when Elite members log in to their account at www.aplusrewards.com.
-- Elites will have the same privileges as Summit members when traveling on our partner Frontier Airlines. These privileges include free DIRECTV(R), complimentary inflight beverages, exemption from redemption fees and exemption from change fees.
Other changes include:
-- Effective February 1, 2009, A+ Vouchers for A+ Rewards flights will no longer be created. After that point, A+ Rewards credits may only be redeemed for flights or upgrades.
The A+ Rewards program allows passengers to redeem A+ credits for one-way flights and operates with A+ credits rather than miles for a faster route to a free* ticket. No matter how many miles are flown, four round-trips equal a free* one-way ticket. AirTran Airways' current A+ Rewards policy has successfully avoided fuel surcharges, increased requirements for redemption and other stringent policies that complicate many frequent flier programs.
"At AirTran Airways, we value our frequent fliers and take great pleasure in rewarding their loyalty to our airline," said Tad Hutcheson, vice president of sales and marketing for AirTran Airways. "We have heard two primary complaints about other loyalty programs: 'Free*' tickets are loaded with fees and complex requirements, and more and more benefits are being taken away. At AirTran Airways, we have addressed these issues so that our free* tickets truly are free*, while adding benefits and perks to our best customers instead of removing them."AirTran Airways is also careful about selecting its partners for the A+ Rewards program in order to not flood the system with A+ Rewards credits. As a result, fewer people compete for available free* seats, making it easier for passengers to redeem their A+ credits. With a two-year expiration policy for our Elite and A+ Visa customers, travelers have plenty of time to cash in their free* tickets. ..."